Peter wasn’t sure if the clock in Mrs. Harrington’s math class was broken or if it was just the fact that there was only 2 minuets left until the weekend that made time seem to move so slowly.
Him, Ned, and MJ are sitting in the third row closest to the window, their backs to the SmartBoard and an opened notebook in front of them. The rest of the class was relatively silent, Flash having given up on his teasing for the day and was instead listening to the ignorant music now blasting through his headphones.
“—if we watch Beauty and The Beast first we can have time to watch 101 Dalmatians and Peter Pan before we even get called for dinner.” Ned is arguing, his round face cut in half by the beams of sunlight filtering in through the half-closed blinds.
MJ shakes her head, unruly curls bobbing in her high ponytail. “No no no, that means we’d have to immediately start the movie once we get to Peter’s house, and I don’t think you two losers can go that long without eating.”
Both Peter and Ned share a glance, their faces turning a light shade of red at the truth of that statement. Hands fumbling, the young Stark crosses out the list in the notebook, sighing when the voices of MJ and Ned rise as they argue.
“Guys!” The Spiderling says, holding up his hands in a pleading gesture and feeling satisfied when both of his friends cut their sentences off short. “Why don’t we start with The Incredibles and see where we go from there?”
Both Ned and MJ frown, pursing their lips and think about the option for a second, the only sound filling the silence being the air conditioning as it kicks on.
“That sounds like a plan, dude!” Ned finally says after a minute, holding up his hand for a high five.
Peter obliges, smiling wide as excitement fizzles in his veins when MJ nods in agreement. Taking out his phone, the teenager begins to text his Dad just as the bell rings, the sound high pitched and echoing.
Peter: Hey Dad, can MJ and Ned come over tonight and watch a movie?
Mrs. Harrington waves goodbye to them as they all exit, Flash jostling Peter’s shoulder on the way out and making the spiderling frown in annoyance.
“Watch where you’re going, Penis.” The other boy hisses, dark eyes narrowed with hatred.
Peter ignores him, hitching up his shoulders until the bully was a ways down the crowded hall, his egocentric shouts just audible over the roar of the other students.
Fixing his backpack strap, Peter catches up to his friends and steps outside, the mid afternoon sun glinting against the metal of the nearby cars. Saying a quick bye to his friends and a promise to text them what his Dad says, Peter hops over and waves to Happy as his Uncle opens the car door.
“Hey there, kid.” Happy grunts as he closes the door, climbing in on the other side and twisting the key into the ignition, the engine rumbling. “How was school?”
Snapping his seatbelt on, the young Stark smiles at his Godfather, watching the school empty as everyone makes it to various buses or cars, the ones parked in front of them beginning to slowly inch forward.
“The average. Math. English. Oh! We did a really cool Chemistry lad today which was fun!”
The car goes over a speed bump, jostling both passengers and causing Peter to bump his head on the window. Rubbing one hand over the stinging knot, the young Stark meets his Godfather’s eyes in the rear view mirror, blushing as the Driver chuckles. Flicking his eyes back over to the road, the grumpy man lets out a hushed curse as a phone occupied students nearly walks into the hood of the car.
“That Flash—Happy says the other teens name in distaste, dark eyes becoming hard as he thinks of his nephew’s tormenter. “—kid still giving you any trouble Pete?”
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
“What does that mean? Peter?”
The young Stark, pulling his phone out of his pocket when it buzzes, smiles at the response he sees. Biting his lip, the teenager shrugs, not meeting his Uncle’s gaze when he looks back.
Dad: Sure kiddie, just make sure you stay out of the labs. I should be home by 5:30 and we can get pizza for dinner.
Texting back a quick “okay thank you!” with a smiley face, Peter shoves his phone away, startling slightly when he looks back up. Happy is still staring at him, jaw clenched and gaze concerned.
“Peter?” Making a ‘go on’ motion with one hand, the man begins to ask Peter a second question, but his voice is drowned out by a spike in the teens Spidey Senses.
Letting out a hiss as his ears ring, Peter looks quickly out the window, blinking against the glare of the setting sun through the surrounding buildings. Shivering as the sensation gets stronger, the teen clenches his fists in his lap, feeling his heart hammering in his chest and confusion filling his brain.
What the hell?
Shaking his head, Peter catches one woman’s eyes outside as Happy turns out of the school. Her pale blue gaze, face obscured by a light green scarf strangely out of place for the hot May weather, follows the car as they zoom farther away, her almost white-blonde hair fluttering in the breeze. She holds her hand out as they pass, almost as though she wanted to reach in and grab Peter, almost as though she could see him there.
Then they turn past a building and she is ripped from sight.
All sound comes back in a split second and Peter feels dizzy from the force. Rubbing one now shaking hand down the side of his face, the spiderling tries to focus on getting his heavy breathing under control as his Godfather looks back worriedly.
“You doing okay back there kiddo?” The Driver asks, pressing down the accelerator and causing them to settle back into the leather seats.
“Y-yeah.” Peter says, hating how his voice hitches. “Just t-tired Uncle Happy.”
Pressing his suddenly aching head against the cool window, the young Stark closes his eyes and tries to block out the fear and confusion he can feel creeping into his bones.
Just tired, that’s all.
“I’m afraid I can’t be friends with you anymore, Stark.”
Peter’s head snaps up to look at MJ, his doe eyes wide with shock, letting out a muffled sound of confusion and outrage. Ned just gasps at both of them, hands coming up and grabbing his red stained napkin from the table.
“B-but MJ, just listen—“ The larger boy finally chokes out, rubbing the grease from his fingers almost angrily.
Peter just continues to stare with a hurt expression that is an uncanny resemblance to a kicked puppy. Putting down his pizza slice, the young Stark watches as MJ smirks, picking up his slice and studying the fruit and ham decorating the surface with a green complexion.
“How the hell can you even eat this?” She asks, flicking the pizza down and splattering the wood with drops of sauce. “It’s—it’s—I can’t even come up with a word that sums up the grossness that is this monstrosity.”
“Well I like it!” Peter finally says, reaching over, grabbing his slice, and pushing the whole thing into his mouth, cheeks bulging and lips puckered. “Smee?”
MJ makes a non-human noise, rolling her eyes and picking up her veggie slice, black olives decorating the surface and rolling back onto her paper plate with tiny plats.
Chewing furiously, Peter has just gotten the bread and toppings all the way into his mouth when his Dad walks in, his lab shirt dotted with grease and normally styled hair a mess. The Billionaire pauses in the doorway, tired eyes going wide as he takes in his child’s puffing cheeks and sauce stained shirt.
“You know, Pete, that you don’t have to eat the pizza all at once right?” Tony snarks, smirking when all his boy does in roll his eyes.
“Mr. Stark sir.” Ned hesitantly asks, somehow still nervous around the genius even after all of these years. “What, uh, what time is it because my Mom said I have to be home by ten?”
“Ditto.” MJ says, not even looking up from the drawing pad now sitting next to her plate.
Tony, having to forcefully hold back an eye roll because haven’t these kids ever heard of a clock or an A.I for that matter, takes a quick glance up at the ceiling.
“FRIDAY?” He drawls, watching out of the corner of his eye as Peter finally finishes chewing, taking a swing of his root beer and making a face as the fizz settles on his sensitive tongue.
“It is currently 6:32 pm Eastern Standard Time with a slight chance of rain later during the night. The temperature rests at a comfortable 74 degrees—“ FRIDAY’s electronic voice floats down from the ceiling, causing both MJ and Ned to startle.
“Alright alright Fri, I don’t need the weather channel, thank you.” Tony cuts her off, walking over and leaning against the side of the table with his hip.
“Just wanted you to make sure you at least heard what outside was like today, Boss.”
The genius glares hard at the ceiling, lips twitching in a vain attempt not to smile as Peter laughs in the background. Setting down his now half-full glass, the youngest Stark grins up at his Dad as the man walks around the table, stopping at his son’s chair and resting one callused hand on the spiderling‘s head.
His unspoken question is clear and Peter nods slightly, his father’s palm a warm and comforting weight against his hairline. Tony keeps his hand there for a second longer, frowning in concentration and checking his kid’s temperature. Finding nothing abnormal, the Billionaire takes a step back, and walks to the fridge.
Peter has to fight down the urge to sigh, going back to his pizza and listening to Ned and MJ as they discuss the many many difference in taste preferences.
Of course Happy had told Tony about the incident in the car.
It was a job requirement as much as a personal issue for the man and the Driver’s worried eyes still burn bright in the teenager’s mind, the only thing more predominant being the Mama Bear Mode the news had set his Dad into. It had taken around ten minutes of interrogation (plus a scan from a grumbling and annoyed Uncle Bruce) from the Billionaire for Peter to even be able to continue with the movie night, using the same excuse he had used on his Godfather earlier that day.
I’m okay, just a little tired.
Peter decided not to tell Tony about the woman, knowing that that would only lead to more questioning and a man-hunt for the poor person that looked at the young Stark wrong. And Peter was not about to give up patrolling this weekend for anything.
Not for something this stupid and small.
“We’d better start the next movie before it gets too late.” He finally says, purposefully disrupting the slightly awkward silence that has taken hold.
“Which one of those princess movies is it now?” Tony asks, tone teasing as he pops open a can of soda, making his way back to his lab to finish up the latest Iron Man Armor in peace.
“They’re not princess movies, Dad.” Peter argues, finishing his drink in one large gulp and checking to be sure that his friends are all done eating. “And we aren’t sure yet, we finished our list before dinner.”
Tony just rolls his eyes, muttering something about how only nerds make lists for little kid movies under his breath as he exits (Peter knows he is only joking based on how many Disney movies they didn’t even have to search for in the Tower). Getting to the doorway, the genius pauses, only sparing a lingering and worried glance Peter’s way before he leaves.
Finishing his pizza with one last bite, the teen stands up, pushing his chair back with a small squeak as the wood and metal scrape. Ned and MJ quickly follow suit, all three of them throwing away their trash and walking back into the designated Movie Room. It is unanimously decided on The Little Mermaid next, the movie popping up on the screen as soon as the agreement was reached by the ever listening FRIDAY.
Getting situated on the couch, Peter tries to let the familiarity of his home and friends wash away the doubt that attempts to cloud his mind. To get lost in the simplicity of a singing cartoon and expel the image of dull eyes and wispy hair caught in light green clothe.
He exceeds for a while.
By the time the end credits for Zootopia are filtering in through the speakers, all three teenagers are holding back tired yawns, tuckered out from school and the excitement of the night. Setting down the empty bowl of popcorn, the cornels rattling in the plastic, Peter carefully reaches to grab the remote on the coffee table.
He has just pressed the red STOP button when a shadow falls across them, blocking the incoming yellow light from the hall.
“Ned, MJ, it’s time for you guys to scoot on outta here.” Tony says, making sure to keep his voice quiet when he sees the state all three kids are in. “Happy has the car ready to go, heat turned on and all the other fancy stuff.”
Picking themselves up with bones popping and eyes drooping, the friends all walk as one tired mass to the elevator door, Tony having to keep his snickers extra soft. Stalling once the UP button is pressed, Ned and Peter preform a sloppy version of their handshake, all long limbs and muffled giggles. Feeling an awkward blush fill his cheeks, the young Stark gives MJ a hesitating, one armed hug, sticking his tongue out at his father behind her back when the man makes kissing faces.
“See ya later, loser.” She smirks once the still red Peter lets her go, holding one hand up in a peace sign and pressing her ever present sketch pad to her chest with the other. “Thanks for everything, Mr. Stark.”
The address leaves the Billionaire unprepared and he holds up a quick thumbs up, hoping it doesn’t look as stupid as it feels. Ned quietly lumbers over, adding on his own “Thank you.” before they both step into the elevator.
The doors close with a small whoosh, green light illuminating the small interior. The room starts to move downward, both Starks watching.
Then Peter and Tony are alone.
They stand there for a few seconds, each breathing out a small sigh before the genius gently places one hand on his son’s back, leading him out of the living room and down the carpeted hall. Peter doesn’t have the energy to argue, leaning back into the man’s familiar touch as he opens the teenager’s bedroom door.
“You know you don’t have to tuck me in, right?” Peter asks, question broken up by a yawn that nearly pops his jaw, eyes squinting against the darkness of the room. “I’m not five anymore.”
Tony just chuckles, pulling back the navy blue comforter decorating the teen’s bed and lifting a stray pillow from the sheets. Giving his child a tiny push, the Billionaire watches with soft eyes as Peter practically falls into the mattress, hair slipping past his ears and covering his forehead.
“Shut up and let me pamper you.” The elder Stark whispers, brushing the locks from Peter’s face.
The spiderling lets out a muffled, satisfied noise, nuzzling his head into the warmth of his Dad’s hand as the man pulls his blanket up to his chin. A scratchy kiss is laid against Peter’s brow, the fuzzy feeling of contentment and sleep pulling the boy down further into dreamland. Tony steps away after a few moments, the light from the hallway and the half-cracked blinds casting his kid’s body in a creamy and soft yellow.
“Goodnight kiddo.” The superhero says, his form a fuzzy, blue-black blob in the half opened doorway, his Arc Reactor glowing. “I love you.”
Peter slurs out an “I love you too”, the sound lost to his Dad as the boy rolls over onto his other side, facing the window and the never darkening New York skyline. Tony shakes his head in amusement, flicking off the hall light and stepping back, pulling the door with him as he goes.
The sound of it clicking shut startles Peter awake for just a second, his eyes snapping open before lazily drooping down. Shifting his position, the boy gets further under the covers, shivering slightly as his feet make contact with the cooler air filtering in. He takes a minute to study the blazing world outside, his lips pulling up in a sleepy smile as he takes in all of New York stretched across the blackened horizon.
He is just about to fall back asleep when something in the neighboring building catches his attention.
It is just a flash. So quick that a normal person wouldn’t even think twice, wouldn’t even have seen anything at all, just the darkness and the silky lamp lights slithering in through the cracks.
But Peter isn’t a normal person.
Sitting up, cold air forgotten, the young Stark watches with his heart in his throat as a pale green scarf and a wisp of white hair scurries along the top floor of the next door office, getting lost in the pockets of night and disappearing after only a second.
Quickly reaching over with shaking and numb fingers, Peter grabs onto the blind chain, pulling the plastic closed with a snap. Without the added light from outside, the teenager’s room is pitch black, tall and looming towers of darkness real and imagined filling up the space. Swallowing down acidic bile, the 15 year old quickly throws his covers over his head, shivers racking his thin body and fear causing his skin to glisten in cold sweat. Breath panting, Peter closes his eyes tightly, trying in agonized vain to convince himself that there was nothing wrong.
Needless to say, he doesn’t sleep very well that night. Or the next night. Or the next night. . .
The week goes by relatively smoothly, the only inking of the rough and unusual nights Peter has had being the quickly darkening bags under his eyes and the anxious motions he tries to keep in check.
Every and all day he thinks he sees her, whether it be in the street or outside of the Tower or even in his room, but with every paranoid glance it becomes harder and harder to tell. His nights become increasingly longer and longer, the feeling of being watched suffocating and making it hard to sleep, even after the blinds are closed and his Dad has checked on him.
“What’s the deal with the shades spider-baby?” His father had asked him early Wednesday morning, the question causing Peter to pause with a spoonful of eggs halfway to his mouth. “You’ve never wanted them closed before. Are you feeling sick or anything?”
Quickly shoving the food into his mouth, the teen had chewed extra slowly, stalling while he pretended not to notice the way Tony had studied his every move with worried and protective dark eyes.
“I-I don’t like the lights. From-from outside.” Peter had answered lamely, quickly picking up his book bag from the floor and hopping down the the stool, only pausing once to let Tony press a kiss to his head. “I’ve got to go now Dad, bye! Love you!”
Tony hadn’t asked since then, but his eyes never strayed too long from Peter’s face and his nightly checks became more apparent, but he didn’t push and for that the teen is grateful.
He doesn’t know what he would say if the man brought it up again.
Finally it was the weekend again, a cool Saturday night and after a paranoid filled week, Peter was more than ready to go blow off some steam and catch some bad guys.
After attending an emergency Decathlon practice late that morning (courtesy of a smirking MJ), the boy had a mostly free day. After checking in with his Dad and promising to be home by 7:00 for dinner, Peter had donned the Spider-Man Suit, slinging webs all across the lively and bright city and stopping tiny thief’s along the way.
It was a nice distraction for his still nervous and tired mind.
Taking his squished sandwich from out of his pocket, the teen had settled on a office roof, pulling his mask up above his nose and taking a gigantic bite, the bitterness of the pickles tart in his mouth.
“Anything interesting or crime-worthy happening right now, KAREN?” He asks once he swallows, taking a chug of water and wiping his lips off with his other hand.
The A.I’s pleasant voice responds after a moment, her tone a cross between humorous and chiding. Just like Dad, Peter thinks, taking another bite of his food and breathing in the clean evening air.
“I don’t detect anyone needing any immediate assistance right now Peter, although I would suggest drinking some more water because your hydration level has started to drop.”
Rolling his eyes with a sassy “Yes Mom” Peter began to bring the half-full bottle up to his lips, the liquid a welcome relief to his still dry mouth. He has barely taken more than a sip, however, before a loud scream somewhere on the ground startles the boy and he drops the plastic with a curse.
“What the hell?! KAREN, I thought you said there wasn’t anyone that needed help?” He asks, pulling his mask back down and launching a web at the next-door building, his sandwich falling forgotten to the floor.
The wind rushes past the young Stark’s ears, almost drowning out the A.I’s response as the teen perches on the side of a metal statue, the iron cool to the touch and the rust scrapping off in thin red flakes.
“This person wasn’t in immediate need of assistance when you asked. If you would like me to notify you of when this unidentified woman started to need help, I can go back into my auditory log and tel—“
Peter cuts her off, zooming in around the steadily darkening areas and quickly switching to Night Vision Mode, the distant bodies of pedestrians becoming a sea of red blurs as they speedwalk in every direction.
“No, no don’t do that!” Sucking in a quick breath, the young Stark begins to climb higher up the unnamed statue. “Just tell me where the scream came from and the fastest route to the source.”
Before he has even finished speaking a holographic map has popped up into his field of vision, a flashing red line leading from his position to what appears to be a long ally only about two blocks away. Shaking out his now sore fingers, Peter shoots a web to the next tower, leaping off of his perch and flying through the sky with the ease and skill of a bird.
It only takes him a few minutes to get to the target, zipping along rooftops at top speeds. He stops right before entering the darkened walkway, balancing on the ledge of an overlooking building with his real and mask eyes narrowed in concentration. He is just about to ask KAREN for a heat signature scan when he sees her.
She is laying on the ground, both her arms curled up in a fetal position and her chin tucked against her chest. There appears to be no bad guys or normal people alike around her or the ally and Peter cautiously lowers himself down to her side, KAREN confirming on the way that she is indeed still alive and physically unharmed.
“Excuse me Miss?” Peter quietly asks, ignoring the wet and dirty concrete and falling to his knees beside the still motionless stranger. “Are you okay? Do you need help?”
Making sure to keep one ear cocked for danger, the young Stark reaches a hand out to touch the woman on the shoulder, the only sounds answering his questions being the distant roar of far away traffic and the raspy breathing of them both combined. He has just gotten his finger-tips onto the dark sleeve of her sweatshirt when she suddenly sits up.
The first thing that comes to focus once the nearly non-existent light filters in is the Halloween mask that hides the woman’s face. It’s pale white, reflecting the glow of the street lamps and glistening like a never opened box of Legos. The shock of this sight is enough to make Peter shrink back, a cry of alarm slipping past him unwanted.
“Ethan.” Is the only thing the woman says, her voice as ruff and as dry as crinkling newspaper, muffled by the plastic in front of her face. “Ethan.”
Peter quickly stands up, pulling the still muttering stranger along and staggering as she leans all of her weight against him, her body like a sack of potatoes despite her small stature. Feeling slightly overwhelmed, the masked teen tries in vain to free his arms from her clawing fingers, her grip cutting off the circulation in his biceps and making them tingle.
“Okay lady, let’s get you outta here.” Peter mutters, beginning to lead them both toward the other side of the darkening ally. “Can you tell me your name or something?”
The woman still hasn’t answered, the only word Peter can decipher being a muffled and cracking “Ethan” which he is almost positive isn’t this crazy girl’s name.
“Peter, it would appear that your Dad has been trying to call you for the past 5 minuets. Would you like me to call him back or continue to direct him to voicemail?” KAREN’s voice is loud in his ear and the 15 year old startles, letting out a colorful four letter word as his phone starts to buzz once more.
Trying for several awkward seconds to reach the still vibrating device, Peter finally gives up with a sigh. If he were to grab his phone, he would have to let got of the woman and he did not want to be the cause of her only wound of the night.
“I’ll call him back in a minute.”
Shaking his head at his luck, the boy continues to lead his muttering rescued baggage to safety with the known fact that he is going to get the lecture of a lifetime later.
One thing at a time Pete, one thing at a time.
Finally, they make it to the end of the street, stopping under a lamp light and looking out at the highway a few miles off, the cars zooming by with lights flashing and horns honking. Looking over at the forever staring eyes of the mask, Peter swallows before talking, being sure to make his voice about an octave deeper.
“So,” He begins, trying to lead them to the hospital he barely see a couple of blocks off, the lamps flashing a red and blue as police cars circle around. “Are you getting ready for Halloween early this year or. . .?”
The woman doesn’t laugh or even react to his joke, just continues to start at his face through the peeping holes in the fake eyes, her breath rattling the plastic and her arms continuing to clutch him closer. Letting out a shaky sigh, Peter tries to walk again, ignoring the vibration he can feel going off in his pocket.
They only get about four steps before the girl speaks once more.
“Stop.” She commands, the surprise of her hearing her voice and not the word itself causing Peter to do as she asks.
“Oh, so you can talk!” The boy says, laughing a little. “Think you can you tell me your name now?”
But the woman still doesn’t answer, instead stopping and choosing to wrap her thin arms around his neck. She pulls herself up, breathing heavily. Taking an impossible step closer, she rests her bony chin on his shoulder, the hard plastic of the mask digging against Peter’s collar bone and making him squirm.
“KAREN?” Peter whispers, unsure of what to do as the woman holds him close. “What is she doing?”
“I believe this is what humans would call a ‘hug’. It is sometimes used as a bonding ritual to strengthen the love family members feel or to help comfort a person who is sad.”
“I know what a hug is! I mean—I mean what do I do?”
“It is usually preferable that you hug the person back.”
Feeling very uncomfortable and out of his league, the spiderling hesitatingly wraps his arms around the woman, his body as stiff as a board. She smells of old cigars and an almost fruity perfume, and Peter can feel his head start to pound from the combination. Suddenly frantic to get away, the boy tries to pull from her but the girl holds on tight, making a groaning sound in the back of her throat at each motion he makes.
Okay, sorry lady but you leave me no choice. The boy thinks, getting ready to use a little bit of his enhanced strength to free himself before a ringing in his ears has him pausing.
Peter realizes that his Spidey Sense is going off just as a prick in his neck has him flinching, crying out in shock and fear as the woman finally lets him go.
Staggering, the youngest Stark feels himself slip sideways into the wet road, a cough getting trapped in his chest and his eye-sight blurring. Looking up, Peter sees the lady step back, a bloodied needle clutched in one bony hand. Letting out a choked sob of fear and pain, Peter tries in vain to fight the darkness he can see tumbling into his vision, his movements going slack and his mouth unwilling to corporate as he tries to tell KAREN to call Tony.
Please. Dad. Daddy, help. Please. . .
The last thing he feels is his mask getting ripped off his face, leaving his identity released for all the world to see; the last thing he sees is the other mask getting pulled off the the woman’s face, her hauntingly familiar light blue eyes boring into Peter’s, her smile sharp and cruel; and the last thing he hears is the creep, her tone having taken on an elated and light quality.
Then the darkness finally crashes down on the teenager and he’s aware of no more.
The first thing Peter is sees when his eyes snap open is the burst of pure blue that makes his corneas burn.
He is laying on his back, a thin indigo sheet covering his body and thick metal bands encircling his wrists. Shaking the last of the fog from his fuzzy brain, the teenager slowly sits up, shivering as the cold air makes contact with his bare skin. Quickly reaching down, Peter grabs the edge of the blanket, letting out a relieved sigh when it is lifted up to reveal a pair of dark navy boxer shorts, his Spider-Man suit nowhere in sight. His relief is short lived, however, when he finally forces himself to take stock of his surroundings.
He’s in a bedroom, various toy cars and other child-like things decorating the soft looking carpet underfoot. On the walls, posters of the ocean and planes flying in the sky cover basically every available surface, the baby blue of the paint matching the decorations perfectly. From his view, Peter can just make out a sapphire coated door leading to what must be a bathroom, the mirror and toilet impeccably clean.
Sucking in a shaking breath, the young Stark forces himself not to panic as he carefully gets out of the strange bed, feeling more vulnerable then he would like to admit. Slowly he turns around in a tight circle, the whole room coated in a pale atmospheric light and smelling slightly of baby powder.
Blinking back a sudden prickle of tears, Peter makes his way to the one tiny window in the corner, the mosaic glass a cold and pastel tinge, showcasing even more of the sky and sea theme. Wrapping his arms around himself in a pitiful self-hug, the boy tries to ignore the rattle of his heavy wrist bands with each shaky step.
Maybe I can break the glass. He thinks, lifting up one fist and giving the sealed opening a questioning tap.
The pain that shoots up his hand is as unexpected and unpleasant as a high voltage shock and Peter lets out a yelp, shaking the now red appendage out to help ease the ache. Moving backwards quickly, Peter continues to explore his oddly colored cell, giving up on climbing the walls when the trial brings the same result as the window.
Opening a closet door, the metal shrieking from disuse, the spiderling is relieved to see a blue shirt hanging on the only clothes hanger, the fabric an itchy cotton that the teen would normally never wear.
But anything is better then being almost butt-naked and he pulls it on without hesitation.
His body begins to ache, his already fading bruises on his face and back flaring up as he collapses back onto the bed, bouncing as the mattress groans a little at the weight. Gathering the thin sheet into his lap, Peter picks at the fabric as his mind continues to race, breath coming in hot pants as he tenses.
Where is he? Who took him? where is he who took him whereishewhotookhimwherewherewherewherewhere
Feeling his helplessness become more predominant, Peter curls his body into a huddled ball, the stab wound in his neck from the woman’s syringe flaring up at the angle.
Snapping his head up from his self-created hiding place, Peter looks frantically into each corner of the room. The small back dots stare back at him, recording every action and motion in the small space for whoever cares enough to watch. Raising his aching arms up toward the cameras, the young Stark silently hopes for a sign that this wasn’t as bad at is seems.
“Hello?!” He shouts, voice horse. “Crazy lady?!”
Anybody. Please. Please.
There is no change, however, and finally the teenager lays back down on the bed, clenching his fists to try and still the frantic shaking that had taken hold. Sinking further against the unexpectedly soft pillow, Peter begins to unwillingly think about his Dad and how the man had been trying to call him non-stop before he had been taken.
I would do anything to hear his Always Answer When I Call You lecture. The 15 year old agonizes, brushing the unfair tears that finally begin to leek out of his clenched shut eyes. I just want him to be here. Please.
Peter doesn’t know how long he lays there, soaking in his pathetic self-pity and trying hard not to wish for his father (and failing miserably), but it must have been a while because when the sound of a distant door closing echos inside his blue room, his eyes blink back open.
He sits up again just as a hidden door, perfectly blended in with the blue paint and markings on the wall, swings open, blowing in the harsh smell of bitter flowers and ashy cigarettes. The light from the window is dimmer now, the once sky colored illumination turning a pale gray from the suspected setting sun. Peter gasps as a figure greets him in the doorway, her familiar green scarf forcing bile to bubble up from his stomach.
“Good evening Ethan, did you enjoy your nap sweetie?” She asks him in a sickly sweet voice, brushing her white hair from her thin face.
Peter chooses not to respond, curling himself further against the wall to his back, large eyes never straying from the woman or the silver tray she has held out in front of her.
The woman’s blue eyes are soft, holding a crazed sort of love as she sets the metal disk onto the paint chipped desk a few feet away. In another life, she must have been pretty, but stress and old age have ruined her, turning her once smooth skin into a mask of wrinkles and sun marks.
Her tall heals are muffled on the carpet as she inches her way closer, hand held out and slowly lowering onto the flinching teenager’s head.
“Ethan? Do you feel okay, little one?”
Her stare is intense, skin cold as it settles onto Peter’s face. The young Stark shivers at the invasive touch, leaning away from her fingers and brings his thin sheet up around his shoulders as though he could block her out with the fabric alone.
“M-my name’s not Ethan.” He finally stutters out, trying not to puke as the woman begins to gently brush his hair back, her fingers small and so unlike the boy’s Daddy that he almost sobs. “I-I think yo-you’re confused, my name’s Peter an—“
She cuts him off with a crackling laugh, throwing her head back and facing the blue ceiling, her hand stopping its petting and instead grasping Peter’s hair and pulling. His wide eyes sting, a sharp cry of pain wrenching from his lips as the woman stops chuckling. She leans down so they are at eye level, her breath reeking of stale mints.
“No. You don’t understand, little one.” She coos. “You’re Ethan now. I mean, you look just like him, with your big, innocent brown eyes and soft hair. He was killed— murdered— 7 years ago while on a field trip to the Empire State Building. He got caught in the New York battle. Rubble crushed him so fast he didn’t even have a chance to move.”
Her crackling voice goes hard for a split second, so fast that Peter almost doesn’t notice, her grip on his hair tightening as her body tenses.
“But that—that Tony Stark, the great Iron Man could have saved him! He-he was right there, but he didn’t even try! He left my baby to die in a hole filled with his own blood and dirt. So you know what I’ve done for that, little one?”
When Peter doesn’t immediately answer, she shakes him hard enough for the darkening room to spin, the young Stark having to bite his tongue to smother a curse. Her tone is still wavering between angry and soothing and the boy isn’t sure which one he prefers.
“I’ve taken the one thing that matters most to him. I’ve taken you.” She cups Peter’s head in both hands, skin smooth against his cheeks. “I’m showing him what it feels like to loose a child; to know a pain so deep down that nothing can ease it. So, you’re mine now, little one. You’re my Ethan and I’m your Mama.”
Peter stares with sudden horrified clarity at the woman, feeling a handful of sobs and pleads build up in his throat just waiting to be unleashed. Frantically, he tries to break the chains on his wrists, finally giving up when the electric shocks start to make his vision fade.
“I wouldn’t try that if I were you, mister man.” Her voice floats down, darkening Peter’s terror to a color that is almost pitch black. “Those shocks can carry quite a punch if used repeatedly and I don’t think it is time for another session yet. . .”
She trails off, haunted gaze misting. Her fingers continue their stroking as though nothing happened, feathery-light touches that send unpleasant shivers down Peter’s spine. He doesn’t try to shrink back, however, just takes the time to distance himself, placing his mind and body in separate boxes and screwing up the lid.
He doesn’t think he can bare this if he doesn’t.
The lady’s eyes suddenly snap back to him, a gigantic smile stretching her cracked lips so wide they begin to bleed.
“Go ahead and eat your dinner baby.” She says, flicking her head in the direction of the tray on the dresser, wispy hair flying. “I’ve made it just for you!”
Peter’s stomach rumbles at the mention of food, the last thing he remembers eating being a few bites of a sandwich, but he is not about to touch anything his ‘Mama’ made.
He would rather starve first.
Luckily, the lady turns to leave after pressing a dry kiss against his forehead, her lips leaving a bloody imprint against Peter’s sweaty skin. Peter doesn’t move, choosing to stare straight ahead and scream internally, needing his Dad with an intensity that burns almost as bad as his hunger.
“Wait!” He suddenly says, holding out one hand in what could be a pleading gesture if someone looked hard enough. “H-how did you know I’m Spider-Man?”
The lady stops, pale eyes shinning and her voice whistling out like a cold wind over stormy seas.
“Oh, little one.” She coos, “I’ve been watching you for weeks. I know so many things about you, trust me.”
Peter just gasps at her, feeling the blood drain from his face as his trembling picks up speed. Tears gather at the corners of his eyes and he quickly blinks them away, his mind clouding with a million thoughts.
Mama’s shoes tap softly against the floor as she exits, the last thing she whispers before closing the door echoing through the teenager’s mind the rest of the night.
“Sleep well, Ethan. We are going to have such a fun day tomorrow.”
Then the metal snaps shut behind her and she is gone.
The next time Peter wakes up it is morning and his head is pounding.
His pulse beats through his skull like a erratic drum and he can vaguely remember calling out for his father sometime in the night, his voice soaked with tears and rubbed raw from sobbing. He must have finally slipped into an uneasy and slippery sleep when the pain got to be too much, falling into the welcoming darkness of dreams.
Now, however, he blinks in the blue-gray light of dawn, licking his dry lips and wishing more than anything for a single sip of water. His skin in itchy from sweat, the shirt he is still wearing creating small red bumps along his neck and down the side of his arms. His wrists burn from the electric shocks.
He is just about to go wash his face and take gigantic gulps of the not so fresh water in the bathroom sink when the camouflaged door to his indigo cell swings open with no warning.
Mama barrels in, holding up a steaming bowl of what appears to be oatmeal in one hand, the other carrying a carefully folded navy towel and a unidentifiable bundle of clothe. Peter feels his heart sink into his stomach as the reality of his situation hits him full force once more and he resists the urge to scream.
“Morning, my little one!” She says, striding over to the still startled Peter and pulls him into a violent hug. “Are you ready for your favorite morning treat?”
The young Stark tries to shove her off, to tell her that he doesn’t want her stupid oatmeal and just wants to go home to his Dad, but a sudden jolt from the bands on his wrists has him flinching, crying out and blinking back tears of pain and frustration. The shocks continue for a good two minutes, tingling his fingers and making his veins stand out.
Finally he gives in, choking out a small and pathetic “Yes!” and nearly falling over in relief when the pain immediately stops, leaving him shivering in the aftershocks.
Mama makes a soft tutting sound, settling the blue and white painted bowl in her lap and grins madly down at Peter.
“That took a little longer than I thought, but don’t worry dear, we’ll have you trained soon enough!”
Yay. Peter thinks sarcastically, ignoring the way the woman’s hands had began to rub through his hair again. I can’t fucking wait.
The teen startles back, however, when Mama holds a soggy spoon out, the slush on the end a light brown color and dripping with evaporated liquid. Peter’s stomach rolls at the sight.
“Open up, Ethan! I know you’re hungry and oatmeal is your favorite!”
Nope. No way in hell he is doing that.
Trembling in a mix of humiliation and rage, Peter keeps his mouth stubbornly closed, not even opening a tiny bit when the metal spoon is thrust between his dry lips. Only does he let himself be fed when he can’t keep silent anymore, the pure agony flaring up from his wrists making his body jolt against the woman. He gags as the soggy oats are dumped into his mouth, swallowing against his will and feeling the gnawing hunger in his belly slowly start to deflate.
“Good boy.” Mama keeps whispering, watching the teen with her blue eyes clouded in a sick sort of motherly pleasure. “Good boy.”
Once the bowl is finished do the shocks begin to dissipate, leaving Peter’s veins jumping and pumping wildly under his sickly white skin.
Feeling like a small child, the teenager tries to wipe his mouth on his shirt, the bland cardboard taste sticking to his tongue and coating his teeth. A bony hand on his wrist stops him, however, and he quickly ducks out of the way in fear.
What are you doing Spider-Man? He thinks bitterly, angry at himself for acting like a baby.
But it’s that what he is? Just one scared little boy that wants his Daddy to come save him so much it physically aches.
He shakes his head quickly, banishing the thought before it can take root and grow. Before it sinks in and he looses control and begins to truly panic.
Mama gently wipes his face with a warm, wet rag, the clothe soft against Peter’s cheeks and a welcome relief from the chill of the air.
Closing his stinging eyes for just a second, the spiderling allows himself to pretend that he’s home and that his Dad is taking care of him. That he caught the flu and that now Tony was going to pull him into his lap and sing him a gentle Italian lullaby and hold him close like he did when Peter was small.
That image works for only a second before the comfort is ripped away by Mama’s next alarmingly cheerful words.
“Alright, little one! Time for a bath.”
The humiliation from the deemed ‘Bath Time’ is enough to keep Peter compliant for the next few hours.
After getting stripped naked and scrubbed down with a lavender scented soap, the teenager was dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a clean navy shirt, the fabric much too tight.
Little kid clothes without buttons or zippers.
His wet hair was neatly combed to the side, the style causing him to look a good five years younger and a million times more harmless. Two gray socks completed the outfit and Peter was allowed to do as he pleased.
Too bad that didn’t mean what he hoped it meant.
He’s now sitting on the floor, halfheartedly rolling a pair of Hot Wheels Cars across the carpet and keeping an eye on Mama as she tilts back and forth in a rocking chair in the corner. A few stray shocks from the bracelets on his hands has him quickly continuing his forced play, making it look like he’s having the time of his life while secretly dying inside.
By this time he can correctly assume that Ethan was a very young boy, probably around the ages of 7 or 8 when he died. This thought both saddens and angers Peter and he is surprised to find that some of it is directed at his father.
He knows that Tony would never purposely kill a child.
That is not something Peter would ever believe, no matter the circumstances. But that doesn’t stop that small part of him that resents his Dad for not saving the boy, for not taking one last scan of the collapsed building or stopping the battle for just a second to pick up the faint cries of a dying little kid.
But that is all in the past now, nothing neither Peter nor Mama can do about it no matter how hard the latter tries.
Besides, the instinctual urge to curl up against the protection and love his Dad provides quickly begins to drown everything else out and that thought follows him through a quick chicken salad sandwich lunch and a boiling hot tomato soup dinner.
The daily Story Time that commends his dinner is what finally causes Peter to start to crack along the edges.
Mama reads in a low and soothing voice, a tone which Peter could almost describe as nice if not for the circumstances. The rise and fall of her chest against his head is quickly turning to a sickening rocking motion, her thin but strong arms holding him against her hard enough to bruise.
He doesn’t even bother to struggle anymore, knowing that the nerves in his hands can’t take much more powerful electricity.
By the time she is finished with the short book, Peter is almost asleep, numb to the world and the worries that have haunted his last couple of hours. This—this period of time right here— is the young Stark’s favorite. When he can pretend he is safe at home and that his Daddy is there and that everything is okay.
He tumbles into a dark sleep before he can even hear Mama’s haunting routine goodnight calls.
The next days are the same.
The same blue walls and ceiling and clothes and bed and dresser and mood. He doesn’t even notices the shocking color anymore, the strange aqua tinge fading out to a barely noticeable gray.
The same sickeningly sweet smell of baby powder and old flowers.
The same soggy oatmeal.
The same dreaded Bath Time.
The same Hot Wheels Cars and the never ending squeak of the rocking chair.
The same chicken salad sandwiches with too much mayo and not enough salt.
The same thick, hot soup and dull bread.
The same story and the same dreams.
The same name that isn’t Peter’s.
Ethan, it’s time to get up!
Wash your hands, Ethan.
No no no.
Goodnight, Ethan, sleep tight.
Mama loves you.
. . . Please no.
Over and over and over and over again.
By the time the 6th or 7th day passed, (Peter stopped keeping count after a particularly long shock session had left him lying in a daze for who knows how long) the teenager had grown numb.
He stares straight ahead, not even flinching anymore when Mama’s cold hands run through his hair. He eats the mush shoved into his mouth, the diet of basically liquid causing his skin to loose color and hang off his bones. His hands ache constantly, fingers jerking every couple of seconds as the nerves protest against the voltage.
He hasn’t spoken in a long time. His throat is constantly dry and he becomes dizzy if he moves too fast.
Mama continues her torturing treatment, cooing to him softly when he would jerk awake at night, his subconscious continuing its stubborn need for his Dad.
Dad please please I need you please Daddy please help me please helpmehelpmehelpme
He had sobbed and screamed all alone more times than he would like to admit.
Right now he is curled on the bed, an old and ratty brown teddy bear getting held out to him as the woman grins, always present green scarf slipping past her shoulder and hanging along her arm.
It’s just past his lunch time and Peter can feel the calling of sleep roll across him like a soothing blanket. He welcomes it, because at least in his dreams he can curl up in imaginary Tony’s protective arms and feel safe.
“Look what I found for you, little one!” Mama exclaims, giving the stuffed animal a tiny shake when all Peter does is stare at it blankly.
Letting defeated sigh, Mama gently places the bear into the lethargic boy’s lap, watching with slowly hardening eyes as the animal flops sideways without even a second glance. The next push is a little more forceful, a little more of a warning than an invitation. The bands respond as well, coming to life with tiny nips to the cracked and red skin of his wrists. Frantic to end the quickly approaching agony, Peter grabs the toy, holding it tight against his chest and tries to muffle his heart-wrenching sobs in its soft brown fur.
Mama runs her fingers through his greasy hair, nails scraping along his scalp in what is supposed to be a nurturing and loving gesture, but all it does is make the young Stark feel sick.
“It’s okay, baby.” She shushes him, pulling him closer despite his weak protests. “Mama’s here. I’m right here Ethan, and nothing bad will happen when I’m around.”
That’s when Peter finally snaps.
The scream that gets ripped out of his throat is one he has never heard before. It’s a growling, feral sound, almost like an animal that has been kept cornered for too long. It burns his mouth on the way out.
As quick as lightning, Peter rises, ignoring the shocks humming through his hands and wraps his arms around Mama’s thin neck. She staggers back from the unexpected weight, hitting her hip on the side of the dresser and lets out a string of surprised gurgling sounds as her air way gets cut off. The young Stark just continues to scream, the sound bouncing as they both fall to the carpet, Mama’s body bony under Peter as he lands half on top of her. She struggles, clawing at his arms and face, her nails sharp and leaving stinging, red trails down his cheeks, her panting and gargling breaths reeking.
They roll around for a while, Peter gaining and losing the upper hand multiple times, body aching when they finally come to a stop.
His arms are locked around Mama’s neck, his anger fueling his strength despite the electricity trying to sap it from his bones. Mama’s small body jolts with each snap, her gurgles of complaint and pain turning into small whimpers.
“Let me go.” Peter says, his voice so scratchy from disuse and screaming that he barely recognizes it. “I’m not Ethan. I will never be Ethan, so let me go.”
Mama begins to make small, squeaky noises, the air clustering around her chapped lips and blowing right into the young Stark’s face. Wrinkling his nose at the smell, Peter feels his anger reach max level when he realizes that the woman is laughing, her bony shoulders jumping at the force.
“I’ll kill you!” Peter shrieks. “If you don’t let me go, I’ll kill you!”
Mama just continues to giggle, her thin fingers wrapping around the teenager’s arm, trying in vain to pull his taunt grip from around her neck. Peter begins to feel weaker, the combination of electric shocks and malnutrition making his energy dissipate like smoke from an extinguished fire. His grips loosens a tiny bit, just enough that Mama can speak, her voice raspy and cut off by racking coughs.
“You won’t kill me, little one.” Her tone is smug despite the pain etched onto his wrinkly face. “I know you won’t.”
“Ye-yes I w-will!”
“Oh no, no I know you won’t because I know you. I’ve watched you as human and as Spider-Man and you won’t kill anyone.”
No. No no no I can do it. I can. I can.
Peter tries to deny it, to tighten his grip and end this psychotic and terrifying experience, but as soon as Mama’s breaths begin to slow and her struggles stop, he lets go with a frustrated yell. Panting, the young Stark crawls back toward the bed on his hands and knees, watching with wide and tear filled eyes as Mama coughs.
Her bony body trembles as she pulls herself up, rubbing one hand on her red and bruised neck. Her scarf is wrinkled, practically ripped to shreds and hanging onto her shoulders by a small strip of silk, white hair a mess and fanning her face in waves. She finally makes it to her feet, only swaying once, towering over a now shivering Peter as she grins, smile twitching and broken. Her fingers curl at her sides, almost as though she wanted to touch or grab Peter.
“Well, now that’s over,” She chirps, smoothing out her dirty shirt and wiping dust from her jeans. “I think we are in need of some. . . Separation.”
Peter just watches her with wide eyes, trying in vain to stop the hiccuping sobs from bubbling up as he wraps his arms around his knees, bringing them up against his chest. The carpet burns his bare feet. His hands jerk in agony.
“Oh yes.” She continues. “I do believe that some time alone would do you some good, little one! But how long is the question. . . “
She trails off, looking hopefully down at the teen on the ground with a gaze of twisted mirth. Peter trembles harder, never taking his tear filled eyes off of the woman as she begins to make her way to the door, tripping on her broken heel with a small laugh. She glances back as she opens it, the metal shrieking, her face like a sickly gray-blue hole in the melted light.
“I think three days is a good amount. Maybe you will take some time to think about your actions Ethan, because you’ve been a very bad boy and have made Mama very angry. Maybe think about how much I do for you. Enjoy your Time Out, little one!”
It isn’t until she leaves, slamming the door shut behind her with a echoing bang that Peter begins to scream.
It starts off low, a tortured moan that increases in volume with each passing second. It burns his throat and makes his head pound. Clamping his buzzing hands over his ears, Peter rocks back and forth on the scratchy carpet, hitting the back of his head against the blue painted wooden frame of the bed every couple of seconds.
The pain vibrates his skull but he doesn’t care.
He screams until his voice is almost gone, until the only sound left to come out is wheezing huffs of hot air. Sometime during the rest of the day, he must have pushed himself onto the small bed, the teddy bear getting grabbed and squeezed up against his chest, the young boy hiding his face against its brown fur.
He screams until the light from the mosaic window goes dark, the room turning a twilight black with no light to shed onto his curled up form.
He screams and screams and screams until he physically can’t anymore.
And then. . .
Then Peter just thinks of his Dad and cries.
By the time Peter even feels like moving, a full day has passed and he is starving.
His stomach claws at his insides, howling like a deranged beast and making him moan in pain at the cramps. Sitting up and wincing at the stiffness that meets his joints, Peter begins the slow track to the bathroom. Stopping at the circular sink, the spiderling tries in vain to not look at his reflection, lowering his eyes in humiliation at the skinny and sick boy he sees looking back.
Twisting the faucet on, he dips his hands under, always careful to keep his ever buzzing wrist bands out of the cold spray.
Bringing his cupped hands up to his lips, Peter nearly cries at how nice the water feels in his dry mouth, his stomach gurgling as the liquid hits the empty organ. He takes a couple greedy gulps, stopping only when he feels slightly ill.
Splashing the remaining water onto his face, Peter blinks against another onslaught of tears, the salty liquid dripping down his chin and mixing with the fresh water from the sink. Wiping his trembling hands on the navy towel by the toilet, the young Stark sighs, turning back around and making his way to his bed.
He stops about halfway across the room, however, when a flash of something on the ground catches his attention.
Squinting, Peter slowly kneels on the carpet, ignoring he way his joints crack. Reaching out with aching fingers, he picks up the unknown object, the metal of it cool to the touch.
It’s a bobby-pin, solid black with little ruffling edges along one side. It must have gotten knocked from Mama’s hair when they were fighting.
Feeling his heart rate increase, the boy quickly stuffs the hair piece into his pants, walking the rest of the way over to the bed and sliding under the sheet. Lifting the thin fabric over his head, Peter takes the pin out, pinching the metal between his fingers and feeling hope bloom in his chest for the first time in days. Lifting up one trembling hand, the boy snaps the lock on his buzzing bracelet with a few weak twists, the resonating click becoming the most beautiful sound in the world.
The second one snaps off with a few extra turns, and then Peter just stares at his free, blistered and bleeding wrists with tear filled doe eyes.
Free. Free of pain. Finally free.
Quickly scrambling out of bed, the young Stark shakes out the aching appendages, knowing that his next action is going to hurt like hell. Placing the bobby-pin safely between his teeth, the boy quickly scales the wall, his small grunts of pain escaping unbidden as his blisters and cuts protest the movement. The climb is possible, however, and he quickly makes it to the first corner in a matter of seconds.
It takes him a surprising amount of effort to rip the first small camera from the wall, his body weak and trembling in exertion as he drops the ruined device to the floor.
The next three come off with more and more effort, black spots dancing in his vision by the time he slips to the carpet, lowering his head and taking the time to just breathe. He considers for just a moment going and getting a sip of water from the sink, but dismisses the thought after a second.
I can’t waste time. Not when I’m so close.
Taking a few trembling steps, Peter stops by the small window, squinting against the pale blue light sneaking in. Taking the time to shake his hand out one more time, the teenager tries to break the glass, his grunts echoing through the small room. He barely makes a few cracks in the material before he has to stop, letting out a frustrated sob as his body sags in weariness and pain.
Alright. He thinks with a frown. Plan B it is.
With one final exhausted but determined sigh, the 15 year old begins the painstakingly slow task of finding the door, tapping his knuckles against the wall and waiting to hear the difference in thickness. He finds it after about 10 painstaking minuets, inserting the black pin into the small key hold with a shiver of anticipation.
The click of the door unlocking causes his breathing to stop, digging with dirty and bleeding fingers into the wood and pulling the metal apart with a small grunt of effort.
It swings inward, the sound silent and daunting.
Peter takes a staggering step back, bringing his hand up to his mouth as hot tears slide down his cheeks. The huge expanse of the long hallway outside is alarmingly bright to his eyes, and he has to squint as he steps across. The teen looks back at his blue cell with painful features, the cream carpet underfoot rougher than the other material.
Then he carefully walks down the hallway and it disappears from sight.
His trip through Mama’s house is a blur, the rest of the neat bedrooms and immaculate kitchen (he briefly entertains the thought of grabbing some food but dismisses it instantly) almost nonexistent as he makes his way toward the glowing front door. Grabbing the cool, gold colored knob, Peter twists it to the left, pushing with his other hand and nearly falling onto his face when it immediately opens.
He barely takes the time to make his eyes adjust to the blinding sunlight before he takes off in a run.
He runs for what feels like years, the green grass of the neighboring lawns and the fresh wind in his face feels heavenly. Panting out a tiny laugh, Peter zigzags between various streets, the as-fault rough and scrapping against his bare feet. He runs until his legs turn to jelly and he can barely stand, until he has to slow down to barely a crawl as he limps around the small town a few miles off. Looking around at the unfamiliar faces, the young Stark feels shame heat his face as most of them look quickly away, their noses held with one pinched hand and their eyes narrowed in what could be disgust or pity.
Peter knows what he must look like.
A street kid. A punk. A homeless, dirty child who might try to steal from them in a matter of seconds. A rat in too small clothes and dirty hair with blisters covering his hands.
Finally he gives up on begging, instead choosing to make his way through the alleys and corners of the city. As he walks, he begins to pick up small coins, a few pennies and some dimes, stuffing them into the small chest pocket of his ripped blue shirt. He doesn’t know why he does this, what on Earth he could use all of this change for before he sees it.
An old telephone booth, the sign painted a bright red and chipping around the edges, sit in the shadows of one of the more taller buildings, the concrete around it cracked and root infested.
It is the most beautiful thing Peter has ever seen.
Quickly crossing the street, the teenager climbs into the tiny booth, pulling out his change and counting it with shaking, dirty fingers.
. . 25. . . 33. . . 45. . .67. . . $1.00
Slowly, he shoves the coins into the slot, watching outside as the midday sun shines bright against the side of the buildings. He avoids looking up, knowing that the normally majestic blue of the sky will cause images that are barely memories to come to the surface.
And he definitely cannot have that happening right now.
The faded gray keys give under Peter’s shaking fingers, the teenager pressing the same very private number he had known his whole life. Bringing the reviver up to his cheek, he begins praying with everything in him for the call to be answered. A few tense seconds pass, Peter hardly daring to breathe in anticipation.
Finally. Finally he answers right on the last ring.
“Yes?” Tony’s voice is scratchy, irritation and apparent exhaustion making it horse.
Peter can’t bring himself to speak for a minute, his throat closing up in such an array of emotions that the boy can hardly think. His knees go weak and he has to grab onto the glass surrounding the phone in order to stay upright.
“Look, if this isn’t information about my missing son then kindly fuck of—“
“D-Dad?” The young Stark asks, breathless.
A pause, interrupted by a sharp inhale, the ruffling of papers and something that sounds like a choked off sob.
“Peter?! Oh god, Peter!” His father sounds so relieved and worried at the same time that the spiderling can’t hold back his cries anymore, the sounds echoing through the staticky phone.
“Dad, Dad, Daddy. . .” Peter just repeats the man’s name over and over again, clutching the phone so hard that the metal creaks.
Tony makes soothing sounds, his voice fading in and out as he appears to get into an Iron Man Suit, FRIDAY’s voice barely detectable in the background.
“I’m right here, kiddie. Shh. Shh. I’m coming Pete, I promise. Can you tell me where you are baby? Do you see any street signs or anything?”
Peter glances around in a slight daze, pulling the phone even closer to his cheek when he doesn’t see anything except the shops and semi-crowded sidewalks. Swallowing down his fear, the spiderling begins to shake his head, stopping once he remembers that his Dad can’t see him.
“N-no, I don’t see anything—“ he starts to say but cuts off with a gasp, feeling his blood run cold when he sees her walking out of a bakery, bags held tight in her claw like fingers.
“It’s okay, I’ll just have FRIDAY track the phone call. Stay where you are, kiddo—“
“Dad—Daddy, she’s here!”
Making non-human noise in pure terror, Peter ducks down as far as the phone will allow, the metal cord stretched taunt as he watches Mama make her way down the opposite side of the street. Her green scarf is still ripped and dirty, the red marks across her thin neck visible from the booth.
Tony’s voice is laced with panic, the sound of the repulsers in the background almost drowning out his next frantic question. “What? Who’s there, Kiddie?”
The 15 year old starts to say ‘Mama’ but stops himself at the last second. “The-the lady that t-took me, she’s r-right across the str-street!”
Tony lets out a curse, the sound of his Suit flying becoming increasingly loud as he speeds up. Peter watches Mama stop to talk to a lady with a small dog, her devil smile filling her face and her nails running through the poor puppy’s fur. The teenager shivers at the ghostly sensation.
“Okay. Okay, Peter, I’m going to need you to climb to the roof of the nearest building and stay there.”
Peter whimpers, flexing his aching wrists and watching as a small trail of blood trickles from his hands to the concrete ground. “I-I can’t, Dad! My wrists—“
“Shh, I know baby, but you have to try okay? I’m going to be there in—“ Tony cuts himself off for a second, seeming to be listening to an estimate from FRIDAY as he flies. “—30 minuets, so just go to the top and I’ll meet you there. Can you do that for me?”
Peter swallows. “Y-yes.”
“Good, alright good. I’ll see you in a little bit Peter. Please stay safe sweetheart, I love y—“
Tony’s soothing voice cuts off suddenly, the teen jumping at the sudden static and removes the black metal from his face.
“Your call has been disconnected. Please insert more coins and dial again.”
Sniffling, he ignores the dial tone, putting the phone back onto the stand with a small click and looks around the booth. Mama is now walking in the direction of a flower shop, her back to the teen.
“Please don’t turn around.” Peter whispers.
Taking a deep breath, he bolts around the nearest corner, only exhaling when he cannot see or hear the woman any more. Squinting up at the red brick building in front of him, the young Stark can already feel the agony that scaling the massive structure is going to invoke in his hands.
C’mon Spider-Man! C’mon!
Glancing around to make sure there isn’t anyone to see him, Peter hesitantly places one hand onto the wall, pulling himself up with a small grunt of effort and using his other to stabilize himself. The brick scrapes his hands, the rock rough and leaving his palms bloody. He makes it up a few feet before he had to rest, the wall cool against his forehead as he leans against it.
Letting out a puff, Peter continues, panting with effort and feeling sweat soak his blue shirt in patches. His wrist and hands burn like fire, but he doesn’t give up.
But finally, after what feels like a hundred years, he makes it over the top, stumbling and leaning against a vibrating A.C. Unit, the sun warm against his back.
Closing his eyes, Peter slowly falls to the ground, his hands and arms trembling. The teen sits there for a while. He falls asleep a few times, but makes sure to always shake himself awake at the last second, needing more than anything to be conscious when his father’s arms wrap around him.
He doesn’t have to wait long, it seems.
The sound of thrusters echoes in the distance, rattling the nearby trees and making their branches twist and turn. Weakly lifting his head, Peter shields his eyes from the glare of the sun as the Iron Man Suit zooms closer and closer, finally slamming down a few feet away. The roof cracks from the force. It stands there for a few seconds, the glowing blue eyes staring at Peter with a intensity that makes him stutter.
Then the Suit opens and Tony steps out.
His Dad falls to his knees, grabbing onto Peter’s shivering frame with an iron grip. The young Stark melts into him, curling up in his lap and shoving his face into Tony’s chest, feeling the man press firm and gentle kisses against his head. Tony’s voice is a deep rumble against the boy’s ear as he pulls him impossibly closer.
“Oh Peter. Oh god, baby, you have no idea how fucking long I’ve searched. How many nights I spent flying over the city, how many days I looked. . . “
Tony’s voice cracks and he goes silent. Peter cries harder, ignoring the pain in his hands and curls his fingers into the soft material of his father’s shirt, nuzzling against his neck like a small child. He knows that Tony can feel how skinny he is, can tell by the way the genius tenses ever time his hands brush the teenager’s protruding rib cage or his shrunken stomach. Peter soaks up his Dad’s love, needing it like a plant needs air or a fish needs water.
“Please please please. . .” He keeps repeating it over and over again, not even knowing himself what he is asking for.
Tony makes humming sounds, curling up tighter around his son when the boy sobs. Peter just holds the man closer, nuzzling his face and wiping his tears with Tony’s shirt.
“C-can we go-go home now, Daddy?” The spiderling suddenly asks, his voice sounding small and childish even to his own ears.
Tony’s calloused hands brush his hair back, the motion soothing and for the first time in days doesn’t make Peter feel sick.
“Yeah.” The Billionaire finally says, lifting them both up to their feet and toward the still floating Iron Man Suit. “Yeah, we can go home, baby.”
Tony hasn’t left his side since they arrived at the Tower.
Not that Peter minds, of course. Even as his Uncle Bruce checks him over and is so gentle, the boy doesn’t feel completely, one hundred percent safe unless his Dad is there. They are now sitting on a hospital bed, Tony having immediately ripped the too small, dirty shirt and pants off of his child with a quiet sort of fury that had made his hands tremble.
Peter’s Uncle is currently examining the boy’s still bleeding and cut wrists, apologizing profusely when the young Stark would flinch in pain or hold back a whimper. Tony tenses at each sound, holding his boy closer and pressing soothing kisses against his hairline.
“So, what’s the verdict Bruce?” The genius eventually asks, his voice a deep rumble against Peter’s back.
The Doctor sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose as he stands back up, the ointment for Peter’s damaged wrists sliding onto the bed.
“Well,” He begins, walking over to the small sink in the corner. “The damage done to his hands is quite severe, Tony. I mean, we are looking at loss of nerve control and not to mention the high risk of infection. . .”
Peter’s breath hitches as his Uncle continues to describe his list of injuries, the urge to hide against his fathers side and never come back out getting stronger and stronger. His I.V line swings with each motion, feeding fluids and nutrients into the young Stark’s weak body. Swallowing, the teenager grits his teeth, mentally preparing himself for the answer to his most burning question.
“Will-will I ever get to be Spider-Man again?” He whispers, watching as his Uncle’s sympathetic brown eyes focus on him.
Bruce shakes his head, turning off the faucet and walking back over. Carefully, he rests one hand on the boy’s thin shoulder, ignoring Tony’s warning look. Peter flicks his eyes down, not wanting to meet the man’s pitying gaze, leaning back more fully against his Dad. Bruce, however, doesn’t let him hide, tilting his chin up with one finger and smiles sadly when Peter follows.
“Peter, bud.” The Doctor says, tone remorseful. “Right now we aren’t even sure if you’ll ever be able to write again, let alone operate a web shooter.”
Peter feels his heart stutter, the thought of never being able to stop crime—to help people— causes his vision to go blurry with tears. Leaning his now wet cheek back against his father’s chest, the spiderling listens to the steady thump of the man’s heart as Tony’s arms encircle him once more. Bruce continues to talk, but Peter doesn’t listen, closing his eyes and focusing instead on the pure love he can feel radiating from his Dad as he rocks him from side to side gently.
It isn’t until the topic of bandage color comes up that the teenager snaps his eyes open.
“No!” Peter suddenly shouts, surprising himself almost as much as his father and Uncle, the latter lowering the blue bandages down with a frown of confusion. “Anything b-but blue, please please no blue no.”
“Okay okay, you don’t like those bandages. Shh, Peter please calm down, baby, you’re going to make yourself sick. Shh.” Tony says, cuddling his now sobbing son closer as he glares at Bruce, the Doctor quickly stuffing the offending fabric back into the package.
Banner waits for a few awkward minutes, shrugging helplessly when all his Nephew continues to do is cry. Finally, the boy calms down, rubbing his raw and red eyes with trembling hands. Tony still continues to rock them, speaking soothing words into his son’s hair.
“Peter?” The mutant finally asks, feeling his heart break when the teenager’s sad eyes look up at him. “I have different color bandages, buddy. I just thought blue was your favorite so. . .”
Trailing off, Bruce looks at Tony for help. Clearing his throat, the genius gently turns his baby’s face toward him, brushing away the few tears that still leak out with his thumbs. Peter leans into his hand, making a small wounded sound in his throat.
“Do you want another color kiddie? Maybe like red or green?” The Billionaire asks softly.
Peter thinks for a second, barely holding back a shiver at the word green—green scarf, tatted and teared, wrapped around a thin and wrinkly face, the material floating behind as they tumble to the floor and the screams in the air and the scent of baby powder and blood and spit and pain and oh god no please help me please no daddy please help no no nononono. Blinking furiously, Peter shoves the memories away, instead focusing on the question at hand.
“Yellow.” He finally says, voice strong despite his constant shivers. “I want yellow bandages. Please.”
Bruce doesn’t even blink, quickly lifting the correct colored fabric from the container and starts to wraps Peter’s thin wrists. Tony watches with protective eyes, quickly feeling his surprise dim as he feels his kid relax at the bright color. After a few quick snips with the medical scissors, the bandages are in place. Flexing his wrists, Peter watches as the clothe wrinkles, feeling happy tears spring to his eyes for the first time in days.
Yellow. The color of the sun and the edge of his father’s armor and of flowers and of freedom.
Bruce startles at the quiet words, patting the boy on the arms with a small grin before starting to pack away his things. Tony just kisses his child’s head again, feeling his stress levels start to drop and his worry dissolve. Peter leans against his father as the adults talk, closing his eyes and breathing in the scent of the man, the warmth that fizzles in his stomach traveling up his entire body. A smile curled his lips.
He is asleep before Bruce even leaves the room.
During the next couple of days, Peter gets a ton of visitors.
The first is his Godfather, the man pulling him into an unexpected and surprisingly gentle hug, before pulling back with an awkward cough.
“It’s good to see you kid.” The man says, patting Peter on the back.
“You too, Uncle Happy.” The young Stark says, smiling back at the Driver and watches as he goes to sit in the uncomfortable looking chair at the foot of the bed.
Tony clears his throat, reaching over from his permanent place by his son’s bedside to gently lift the sheet higher up Peter’s upper body. The young Stark protests weakly when his bed starts to tilt back, the wires making a high pitch whirling sound.
“You need to rest kiddo.” The genius says, pressing a scratchy kiss against Peter’s brow as the teenager stifles a yawn.
Peter pouts, trying to make his father cave by using his puppy dog eyes, the fact that they are drooping not helping him in the slightest. “But all I’ve been doing is resting.”
Tony gently pushes the 15 year old back down when he tries to sit up. “Sleep.”
The young Stark complies with little complaint, bringing the sheet all the way up to his chin with one still bandages hand and blindly reaches out with his other.
His Dad’s rough hand find his, squeezing and safe.
Letting out a sigh of contentment, Peter is just about to fully doze off when his Godfather’s voice reaches his ears, his tone hushed and soft in the dimly lit room.
“The FBI is searching for her around the area we found Pete, but it’s not easy going Tony. We don’t even know what this bitch looks like, let alone where she is hiding.”
Peter feels his father sigh, gripping him tighter against his chest. “We’ll find her, Hap. We have to. I won’t rest until she is behind bars for even daring to touch my child—“
“What are you going to do though, Boss? Fly across New York all day and night?”
“That’s what I did when Peter was missing! Why can’t I do it now to find her?”
Happy settles back more fully against his chair, the leather squeaking. “Because your son needs you here, Tony. He needs his father right now, not Iron Man.”
The billionaire is quiet for a few moments, his fingers never stopping their soothing motions along Peter’s hands even as his grip tightens. His tone, when he speaks, is filled with such a heavy rage and sadness that the young Stark has to hold back a whimper.
“I just want her gone, Happy. Dead. I want her rotting in jail and never allowed to see the sun again. I mean, what she did to my kid. . .” He trails off for a second, choked by an emotion Peter can’t place. “It’s-it’s unforgivable.”
Happy sighs. “I want that too, more than you know. But with her ex-husband being a deceased Hydra Agent, it’s almost impossible to know what connections she has. If we can just ask Peter for a description of her or even of her house, we could—“
The Super Hero cuts his brother off with a snarl, the growl that gets trapped in his chest vibrating Peter’s cheek. “No. He almost had a panic attack because of the color of his bandages, Happy. I’ll be damned if I let anyone traumatize him anymore. The FBI is just going to have to try harder to find her.”
They stop talking then for a little while, the only sound being the heart monitor. When they begin again, it is about things that Peter has no interest in.
The next is Ned and MJ.
They don’t stay long, only about 30 minuets, but Peter enjoys every second with his best friends. Ned had brought along his new Lego set, the Death Star taking up so much room on Peter’s bed that they had to get a side table to finish on. The young Stark himself couldn’t actually make the Death Star, with his hands still bandaged up and his wrists sore, so he just watched, laughing along with Ned at MJ’s witty comments.
They all finish up with smiles on their faces and for the first time since he was taken, Peter feels normal.
A little while after his friends leave, a new guest appears at the doorway, a kind looking middle aged woman with dark skin and a bright smile. She introduces her self as Dr. Mary Valentine, a physical therapist that his Dad had hired to help with his hands and fingers.
She was nice but quick, in and out of the room in less than 5 minuets, leaving behind a handwriting book that Peter is supposed to practice with everyday for the next six weeks.
“To get those finger muscles in shape again.” Dr. Valentine had said with a smile.
The spiderling thought he would hate the book, being forced to write his name over and over again for an hour everyday, but once he started doing it, he found that it was actually sort of nice. Even when his letters didn’t look like letters or his pencil wouldn’t stay in his grip.
It was during one of his handwriting sessions that the topic of the Battle Of New York was brought up.
“After the New York Battle, what was the city like?” Peter asks, watching as the sun casts flickering balls of light on the walls.
Tony, from his place in the plastic chair, looks quickly up from his tablet, his eyes wide at the randomness of this question.
“Well, ugh,” the man begins, clearing his throat. “You were probably too young to remember but it was quiet, very quiet and no one spoke on the street. It was like a ghost town.”
His father’s dark eyes cloud in memories and Peter feels a jab of guilt for bringing them back. But he needs to know, needs to hear this from his Dad and not some crazy lady with wild white hair.
“N-no, I mean for you?”
“For me? It—I’m being honest here kiddo even though I don’t know why you’re asking—it was hard. We had to clear out so many buildings, so many people, that got stuck in the rubble and glass.”
Peter watches as his Dad swallows. “Do you ever wish you could’ve saved more?”
Tony’s eyes are bright, his face weary and he suddenly looks so much older than just his 45 years. “Every single day.”
Peter doesn’t push any more, scooting over on the bed, his I.V. rattling, when his father gets up and walks over. His hands are shaking slightly when he hugs the boy.
It is all the proof Peter needs that Mama was wrong and he leans back into Tony in apology, the man’s arms wrapping around him.
He just had to know.
Peter recovers slowly but surely.
A few days after his first handwriting session Bruce allows him to eat a small bowl of mashed potatoes, not wanting to upset his stomach with anything more solid after a week of basically only eating liquids.
It is the best thing Peter has ever tasted.
After finishing his bowl and scrapping it clean, the Doctor had changed his bandages, pulling off the now dim yellow clothe and replacing it with fresh ones. Tony had watched his Uncle’s every move like a hawk, making a low rumbling sound every time Peter would flinch.
His wrists, however, are healing, the skin around them a light pink with no signs of irritation. The 15 year old’s handwriting slowly begins to improve as well, the hour long sessions every day aiding in correcting the nerve damage.
“It looks like you are getting toward becoming fully healed, Peter.” Dr. Valentine had said when she saw him completed pages, grinning back at the boy when he smiles up at her.
The first time Peter writes his full name Tony cries.
His salty tears hit against the top of his son’s head as Peter laughs, writing the same name over and over again with a giddy sort of chuckle. His Dad joins in after a second, both of them laughing in joy and holding up the piece of paper for Happy to see when he comes in later that afternoon.
Mama gets tracked in about two weeks, getting taken to the highest security prison money can buy (courtesy of a raging and snarling Tony Stark). Her dull blue eyes and white hair is a sight that Peter will never have to see again, but that doesn’t stop his mind.
The nightmares haunt his dreams, causing him to wake up in cold sweat with a shriek, calling for his Dad and crying into the man’s chest when he would cuddle him. But they start to dim after a while, becoming only a flash of blue and a whispered “Ethan” in a voice like sandpaper. Peter learns to deal, seldom waking up in tears anymore.
Peter does cry, however, when he slips his web-shooter on for the first time since getting kidnapped.
The metal and rubber wraps around his wrist, causing only a small twinge of pain to flare up. Looking around with blurry eyes, the teenager carefully lifts up his hand, aiming for a cup sitting on the far table near the door. Both his Godfather and Dad watch from the edge of the bed, holding their breath in anticipation.
The web hits the dead center, bringing the cup and his dreams back over to Peter.
“Do you remember what we talked about, Peter? No going too far, call me the second you start to feel weird or unsafe, and always—“
“—pick up when you call me. I know, I know. You only repeated it like a million times tonight Dad.” Peter snarks, placing his phone into his pocket with a groan.
“Don’t give me that sass mister! Who did you lean that from, I wonder?” Tony asks, lifting up his eyebrows in mock accusation.
Peter just laughs, taking a step closer to the man as they stand in the living room. Gently taking his Dad’s hands in his gloved ones, the boy tugs the man closer to him, resting his head right above the Arc Reactor. The genius responds almost instantly, wrapping himself around his boy and kissing his temple.
“I promise if anything happens, I’ll call you. I love you Daddy.” Peter whispers, soothing an ache deep inside himself and knowing that his father feels the same.
The man squeezes him tight one last time, whispering an “I love you too Peter” against the boy’s hairline before he reluctantly lets him go, his dark eyes soft with love. Stepping into his hovering Iron Man Suit, the Billionaire steps up to the speciality made Spider-Man ledge, ready to catch his kid incase anything goes wrong.
Peter slips his mask on after a second, smiling at the warm voice of KAREN that greets him.
“Hello there Peter, it is nice to see that you’re feeling well again.”
“It’s good to be back KAREN.” The boy says, walking over to stand next to his Dad and watches the glowing city, no longer worried about being watched or stalked.
Sucking in a breath, he carefully aims at the building across from their’s, waiting to feel the web go taunt as it sticks before he climbs onto the ledge. Looking back at his father’s protective, narrowed blue stare, the young Stark exhales before, giddy with excitement, jumps off the ledge, whooping as the wind blows in his ears and the city shines bright under him.
And Peter flies.